I stood at the window. In my bedroom. Looking out. A week ago. It was early. Just before Katelyn and I were to head out for the drive to school. Tears streamed down my face. However, for any of what transpired in the next few seconds to make any sense, I have to go back to Fredricksburg. Twice. Once just a few weeks ago, and then for the first time not long after Maureen and I had moved to Austin from Chicago in the summer of 1994. As a dear friend from our early Apple days put it when they commented on a photo of Maureen and I from one of our early Christmases, “Of all the things we have in life, memories are the most valuable.” He could not be more right.
I continue to write because I know others share my story. Not my exact story. Their own stories. Stories fused by the tragedy of life, yet also fused by the magic of life. Because if you have loved at the depth I have for even one day, then you know. You know just how powerful love is, how it fuels the memories, and how the memories fuel the love. As I said in one of my earliest CaringBridge posts as Maureen’s cancer metastasized, moved around, got harder to beat back, I am not going to write about cancer. I am going to write about love.
I write about love because as I said at my daughter’s Dig Pink game at the beginning of breast cancer awareness month several weeks ago, quoting the show, How I Met Your Mother, “because love is the best thing that we do.” However, it is important to note that an estimated 609,640 people will have died from cancer in 2018. This is why I do what I do each and every day of the year. However, like my CaringBridge posts, today is not about cancer. Today is about love. Today is Christmas Eve. The day before the greatest act of love. The act of love bestowed upon us by our God. The birth of Christ. The birth of our Savior. A bundle of joy. A bundle of love. Born in a manger. And love is what connects my story to everyone else’s story, especially those that, like me, have faced loss. That will wake up tomorrow morning. Christmas morning. Without their loved one by their side.
Ever since 1999, Maureen and I woke up side by side. Bleary eyed. In anticipation. Not just our anticipation. But our children’s anticipation. Anticipation that went from one child, Taylor, for Christmas 2000, to another child, Kyla, for Christmas 2001, and finally to our third child, Katelyn, for Christmas 2004. Each Christmas morning all three would hang at the bottom of the stairs. Waiting to leap, bound, run, up the stairs, to gaze upon the Christmas tree. The gifts. The joy of a new day. Why is Christmas morning so magical? Because it is fused with love. Love for each other. Love for the moment. For a few short hours, we are in the moment. Time suspends. We are together. Tomorrow will mark the 5th Christmas morning without the love of my life. For my mom, it will mark her first without my dad. It doesn’t matter how many. It doesn’t matter how long. It hurts. Damn it. It hurts. It is why I was crying at the window in my bedroom a week ago. In the morning. It is why I write. Because I know others hurt. I care about all of you. Many of us will never meet. However, all of us will meet on the other side of heaven. That is what Christ promised us in His birth. Because He already knew what Joseph and Mary did not know. What the three wise men and all the rest didn’t know. He was going to be crucified. He has going to be resurrected. The greatest act of love ever.
It is why I know that even though I won’t wake up with Maureen tomorrow. I will wake up with love. For those that have read the love of my life for a while, you know that Maureen has taught me as much about love in the last 4 years since her passing on October 21, 2014 as she did in our almost 25 years of marriage. I share that love with our children now. And with Taylor home from the University of Virginia, we are all together. He drove over from South Carolina with Maureen’s parents, Henry and Ann. Two amazing human beings that through their love brought my beloved Maureen into this world. I am crying now as I write these words just like I cried at my window last week. I love my Maureen so very, very much.
And that love was in full flower early in September 1994 as she and I drove out to Fredricksburg for the first time. As we drove through the Hill Country, we gazed upon live oaks and cedars and the hills and the sun and the golden brown grasses. We smiled. We said to each other that we weren’t completely sure why this Belgian girl and British boy had ended up in Texas, but we knew we were meant to be here. 27 years later, I am as convinced as I was that day. As we wandered around the streets of Fredricksburg that day, we popped in and out of a number of little shops. And in the back of one, I gazed at my Maureen under a trellis, sun glancing off of her beautiful cheeks. I can see her in my mind’s eye now. My heart. As beautiful as she was that day. And, an artist I had never heard before was playing. I asked the shop owner. It was Enya.
And at the beginning of December this year, I was back in Fredricksburg. With Kyla and Katelyn. Katelyn had a history project, and so we went to the Nimitz Museum, the Museum of the Pacific War, just days after the passing of President George H.W. Bush. Katelyn and I had a grand day exploring history. And when we were done, she, Kyla, and I wandered around the streets of Fredricksburg. And, as we popped into a shop, I looked out. This time I didn’t see Maureen but her reflection. Her beauty captured in the cheeks of her two beautiful daughters, Kyla and Katelyn. And a song came on. This time I didn’t ask the shop owner. Technology has advanced over the years, and so, I asked Shazam and held up my iPhone to the speakers. Yup, it was Enya. Her latest album. And Winter Came.
And last week, standing at the window, I was listening to the album again to start the morning. For what happened next to make complete sense, I have to set a little more of the scene. Our windows face east. Maureen had designed the house this way. My bed’s headboard is on the south wall, so if roll to my left, Maureen’s side, of the bed, I can look out of this window. To the right of the window, I have one of my favorite photos of Maureen, fading a bit now, from New Orleans. At Jackson Square. She is leaning on one of the posts with her black hat. Beautiful. I still have that black hat.
And there I stood. And with the Enya album playing in the background, I gazed upon the most intense red I have ever seen in a sunrise. Focused. Tight. And, then these words focused themselves from Enya’s album, playing at that very moment over our house speakers: “Green is in the mistletoe, and red is in the holly; silver in the stars above; that shine on everybody; gold is in the candlelight; and crimson in the embers; white is in the winter night; that everyone remembers.” Red is indeed in the holly, and red is in the morning. And because of the power of love, for one morning. Tomorrow morning. We will all remember.